Both of us aspiring actresses who became librarians (what else do you do when you give up on acting?).
We both followed love and moved thousands of miles away from our families to start a new life.
We both quit jobs and moved somewhere where we knew no one to start a new career.
And now we both find ourselves at the same crossroads, but for very different reasons.
We are both currently unemployed - I because I have recently retired from a 40 year career; my daughter because she has just graduated from the University of Washington's online I School (they don't call them library schools anymore - not sexy enough).
She is entering the library profession just as I am leaving it.
What will happen next?
As we work that out - I, how I will replace my working life with a meaningful retirement; my daughter, finding her first professional job - I am struck by the similarities in our situation.
Some situations defy the 37 year generation gap.
Both of us spend time each day searching...she for a job, me for meaningful activities and purpose.
We are both coping with bouts of boredom, depression, uncertainty, loneliness and stress that comes with starting a new phase of our lives.
Speaking of the generation gap, the generation gap of the past was much different from what it is today.
Though there is one to the extent that young people probably don't enjoy hanging out with old folks that much, baby boomers have a certain "street cred" to their children. My daughter and I can relate about many things - music (I mean, our kids are still listening to "our" music), social media, fashion, current events and work.
My mother and I had a 40 year age difference (I think I was one of "those" babies) and boy, you could tell. She didn't understand rock & roll, she wouldn't have been involved in social media even if it existed then, she had very strict ideas about fashion (jeans were for farmers so I never wore jeans and, when I was in college, she once kicked me out of the house for going to the eye doctor in a very nice pants suit because "what would the neighbors think?) and her idea of current events was reading the evening paper. As for work, my mother was a housewife. Though she would wax poetic about the time she was the secretary to the bank president, when she married my father, she quit her job and did what most women did in the 1930's, she stayed at home and took care of the house and him.
So as I matured, my mother and I didn't have the same experiences to bond over. Even when I had my first child, she remarked that she didn't even remember giving brith. "They knocked me out," she said, and that was fine with her. She had a caesarean and swore that was the way to go. I was born at exactly 10am so the doctor could get in a golf game. ( It's my understanding that many caesareans were scheduled around that in those days and there are many more like me born at exactly 10am). She was 72 when I had my first child so by then she didn't have much advice for me, recognizing that things had changed. She didn't go to college (though she lamented the fact), never had a career, her husband never cheated on her (as far as I know) and she never experienced divorce, all things that were part of my life. She didn't get feminism, didn't believe in questioning authority and she would correct people's English, right to their faces.
I once gave her a subscription to Ms. Magazine so she could understand my feelings about feminism and what I was dealing with in my life and career. I wanted to share that with her. Later, she very politely asked me not to renew the subscription because she didn't like the "bad words" in the magazine. So much for her seeing through to the content - and to me for that matter.
As for questioning authority and all of the protesting that took place in my youth, she would always say, "The President must know what he is doing," though when her friends' sons started dying in Vietnam, she was against the war.
But despite that, my mother's and my lives ran parallel to a certain degree.
Just as I moved thousands of miles from home (which must have broken my mother's heart), so too did my daughter move far away. Just as my mother had children late in life, so did I. And now, as I think of her all alone after my father died, I can relate to some of what she must have been feeling because raising her children was the center of her life. She never complained. Her generation kept a stiff upper lip, something us Baby Boomers aren't as good at. Well, I'm not, anyway.
Despite our differences and that generation gap, my mother was always there for me and I know she loved me.
So as I said, my daughter and I have more to relate to and our lives are currently in parallel.
My daughter's husband recently accepted a professorship in a new town, miles from where he and my daughter started their life together. While she was in library school, she worked full-time as a manager in retail. So she quit that job to follow her husband to his new job and now must adjust to unemployment and the stress of finding a job and embarking on her new career.
Almost ten years ago, I likewise quit a library management job to move from California to Seattle where we knew no one. The reason? Part financial, part adventure. I was able to restart my career and have now retired. But I too am looking for a new job - the job of retirement.
As we both make this transition, I am drawn back to my search for a first library job. Like my daughter, I moved to a new place to start my search. I centered my search in Northern California which was probably not such a smart move. This was the mid-70's and it was one of those library job slumps that seem to happen every ten years or so, though my daughter should reap the benefits of baby boomers retiring. When you restrict your job search to a specific area, you are already limiting your options.
In those days, I didn't have the benefit of some of the job searching tools my daughter can use. There was no Internet. I had to rely on print ads in library publications and going door-to-door. Yes, we used to do that in those days. Under the guise of "seeking information," we would make appointments with people whose jobs we wanted and try to get help and leads. And we would even do "cold calls." My job hunting base was Berkeley and I will never forget driving up and down the Peninsula, stopping at libraries, cold calling, hoping to meet with the library managers in hopes of finding something. One day I stopped at the Menlo Park Library and the librarian kindly met with me. She was very kind but when I expressed my frustration considering I had been an all A student in library school and even won the highest academic award available, she looked at me sympathetically and said, "My dear, everyone has those credentials." My bubble was burst.
I eventually ended up in a small County Library in rural Northern California, supposedly mostly populated by retired policemen from Orange County. Not the best place in 1974 for a girl with frizzy hair, a penchant for hippie clothes and granny glasses and a decidedly liberal air. For the interview, I tried my best to look "straight." I bought a polyester wrap dress from Penneys, pulled my hair back and tried to look the part, but my friend laughed and said so matter what I tried to do, I would never look like a librarian. I can't tell you how many times people have said that to me over the years, "You don't look like a librarian." I am not sure what that meant or what a librarian was supposed to look like, but deep down, I think I took that as a compliment, considering the poor image librarians had then and still do to a certain degree.
"You don't look like a Librarian."
I went to the interview and must have done OK because I got the job, but I should have been warned by the fact that after the interview, as I was driving back to the Bay Area, drinking my diet Seven Up, I was followed out of town by a local cop all the way to the County line. I guess he wanted to make sure that gol' darn stranger got out of Dodge.
Though I was happy to start my career, that job wasn't a good fit since it was difficult to make friends, my college-graduate husband who had very long hair, was not able to find a decent job, and the marriage ended. But when you are young and just starting out, you sometimes have to take what you can get and make the best of it. I lasted there three years, and since it was a small library, I learned everything about running a library since I was called upon to do everything from children's story times to difficult reference questions to lugging books from branch to branch. So when I moved on to a larger library system south of San Francisco, I was well-equipped to move up quickly, which I did.
It wasn't until much later that the person who hired me for that first job told me she hired me mostly because I "would be good" for that town, meaning she thought they needed someone like me who was different. Thanks. Didn't know that was in the job description and not recommended for a particularly happy life. But she was lucky. I was a good librarian.
My daughter is also limited in where she can find her new job. I hope she will have more options than I seemed to back then and that she doesn't take the first thing that comes along if it doesn't feel like a good fit.
At some point my daughter will find a job and embark on her career, and I wish her the opportunities I have had to make a difference. A library career is a meaningful one.
So when my daughter gets a job her "beginning" will end. She will be off and running.
Now that I have retired from my career, my "ending" has begun.
But that just starts the cycle again, because our lives are full of new beginnings. Every day is an opportunity for a new beginning.
At some point, my daughter will find the perfect job and I will find my true calling and these days of uncertainty will be behind for both of us.
And then our lives will take off in a different direction again.
I just hope that one day our directions will lead us closer together.
Thanks for reading! If you enjoyed this post, feel free to subscribe or share it with your friends.